/e/OS Is Better Than Android. You Should Try It

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/e/OS Is Better Than Android. You Should Try It


Photograph: Scott Gilbertson

While I like the privacy features of /e/OS and have even taken to spoofing my geodata much of the time, the real killer feature to me is the /e/OS app store, which is named the App Lounge. When I used LineageOS, I installed apps from several different app stores. There’s F-Droid, which hosts open source apps, and Uptodown, which a few apps I use support (Vivaldi being the main one), and then I had a few I could only get through the Google Play Store. As anyone using LineageOS can tell you, it’s a lot to keep track of.

The /e/OS App Lounge combines apps from a variety of sources, including the Play Store and F-Droid, among others, making them all available in one place. (You can also opt to only show open source apps.)

Also nice is the option to stay anonymous when connecting to any of the app stores, although you will need to be logged in to get the apps you paid for, since those are tied to your user ID. I have also had the anonymous login fail a few times, giving me token errors. This is one of the few places I’ve had issues with /e/OS.

The App Lounge uses a familiar design that looks like Google Play but adds a few features. The first is that App Lounge provides privacy information about each app, grading it on a 1 to 10 scale, where 1 is horrible for privacy and 10 generally means no trackers. The App Lounge also grades apps according to which permissions they require. The fewer permissions (like access to your photos or geodata), the higher the rating. It’s a nice way of providing complex information in a way anyone can easily parse.

In a win for the larger Android-alt community, /e/OS claims to be working on making the App Lounge available as an app that can be installed anywhere. (In the meantime, the Aurora Store is a close alternative.)

What Doesn’t Work

As much as I love /e/OS, it’s not perfect. I’ve had some minor issues with geodata. I live on the road, so my location changes every couple of weeks. Sometimes /e/OS is slow to pick up on this, and the Maps app will show me search results based on where I was last week. The included Maps app itself is still rough around the edges (and uses some proprietary code). It’s better and more accurate than every other map app I’ve tried, but it isn’t as good as Google Maps. I don’t care what you think of Google; its Maps app is unmatched. I still use it as a backup when the default /e/OS app doesn’t find what I need.

The other big missing feature for me is speech-to-text. Right now, /e/OS ships without speech-to-text at all. There’s a good summary of the options available in the /e/OS forums. None of them are ideal, but I’ve managed to get by with a combination of Sayboard and the stock /e/OS keyboard. The good news is that a built-in speech-to-text feature is on the road map for /e/OS in 2024. This will also open the door to an /e/OS assistant, which is not currently available. The project is unclear about what form this might take, given the privacy implications of interacting with a server to answer queries, but one possibility is a large language model running locally.



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